Lu­bick, Hoyas take fight out of Red Storm

The Washington Post Sunday - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL - GE­ORGE­TOWN 63, ST. JOHN’S 50 BY LIZ CLARKE clarkel@wash­post.com

Af­ter shak­ing off a poor start, the Ge­orge­town men’s bas­ket­ball team seized con­trol mid­way through the first half and and didn’t trail the rest of the way in Satur­day’s meet­ing with long­time ri­val St. John’s. Each time the Red Storm even re­motely threat­ened to close the deficit, Ge­orge­town ju­nior for­ward Nate Lu­bick rose up as if his fam­ily were be­ing threat­ened.

In a phys­i­cal bat­tle that led to a scuf­fle dur­ing the oblig­a­tory postgame hand­shakes, Lu­bick mus­cled in­side for con­tested layups, hit open jumpers, fired pin­point passes and pounded the boards at both ends to lead Ge­orge­town, in statis­tics and in spirit, to a 63-50 vic­tory at Ver­i­zon Cen­ter.

Lu­bick’s con­tri­bu­tions — a ca­reer-high 16 points, ca­reer-first dou­ble-dou­ble (10 re­bounds), four as­sists, two blocks and one steal — tended to come at piv­otal junc­tures, pro­vid­ing a steady­ing pres­ence in an of­ten volatile, up-tempo slugfest.

None was more ad­mir­ing than St. John’s Coach Steve Lavin, whose squad has lost to Ge­orge­town by dou­ble dig­its twice in three weeks.

“Any coach would ap­pre­ci­ate some­one like him,” Lavin said of Lu­bick. “He’s all about the team. He’s a grinder. He adds great value in so many ways at both ends of the floor ... the screen­ing, ca­pa­ble pass­ing, clean­ing up the boards for garbage points. And there’s time­li­ness to the way he adds value. At crit­i­cal stretches in the game, he’ll have a hand in help­ing Ge­orge­town move for­ward when they most need it.” Lu­bick was more mod­est. “I’m just some­body who’s go­ing to do any­thing,” Lu­bick said. “I’ll just do any­thing to win. That’s really all I care about.”

The vic­tory — Coach John Thompson III’s 200th at Ge­orge­town — was the Hoyas’ fourth in a row and sixth in their past seven Big East games. And it snapped the Red Storm’s five-game win­ning streak, re­duc­ing its lead­ing scorer, D’An­gelo Har­ri­son, to a non-fac­tor. Har­ri­son fin­ished with two points on 0-of-9 shoot­ing, while fresh­man Jakarr Samp­son paced St. John’s with 18.

Ju­nior Markel Starks scored from be­yond the three-point arc four times to fin­ish with 12 points on 4-of-17 shoot­ing. Jabril Traw­ick also scored 12. Otto Porter Jr. added 11 points and seven re­bounds, and fresh­man D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera ac­counted for eight of Ge­orge­town’s 41 re­bounds — one of sev­eral cat­e­gories in which the Hoyas out­played a young but im­proved St. John’s squad.

Ge­orge­town (16-4, 6-3) shot 46 per­cent while hold­ing St. John’s (14-8, 6-4) to 32 per­cent and outscored St. John’s 32-18 in the paint.

Af­ter trail­ing 15-12, Ge­orge­town reeled off 12 unan­swered points, show­ing a nice bal­ance of in­side mus­cle and perime­ter fi­nesse.

St. John’s mounted a mini-rally, but the Hoyas snuffed it out and replied with an­other run. Lu­bick let out a roar af­ter grab­bing a re­bound and slam­ming home the put­back. Starks hit from long range. And Aaron Bowen got a pair of put-backs to ex­tend Ge­orge­town’s lead to 35-23.

Still, the Hoyas kept scrap­ping as if bat­tling from be­hind and took a 39-28 lead to the break. It was the most points Ge­orge­town had scored in a first half since it man­aged 40 against Amer­i­can on Dec. 22.

St. John’s, which lost guard Ja­mal Branch to a sprained left knee, did a bet­ter job frus­trat­ing Ge­orge­town’s in­side game in the sec­ond half, leav­ing plenty of open­ings for Starks. Af­ter three suc­ces­sive empty pos­ses­sions by the Hoyas, St. John’s trimmed Ge­orge­town’s lead to sin­gle dig­its with 12:35 re­main­ing, but Starks stead­ied mat­ters with a three­p­ointer.

Porter was called for a third foul soon af­ter and sum­moned to the bench. Again, St. John’s pulled within eight, 51-43, but Starks replied with yet an­other three­p­ointer. Traw­ick hit four free throws in the bruis­ing fi­nal min­utes to ce­ment the Hoyas’ dou­ble-digit lead.

Af­ter­ward, both coaches said they didn’t see enough of the postgame tus­sle to com­ment. It ap­par­ently in­volved words and shov­ing be­tween Traw­ick and Amir Gar­rett of St. John’s, with var­i­ous team­mates lung­ing into the fray be­fore the sides were sep­a­rated.

PHO­TOS BY JOHN MCDON­NELL/THE WASHINGTON POST

St. John’s guard Amir Gar­rett and Ge­orge­town for­ward Nate Lu­bick vie for a re­bound dur­ing the Hoyas’ win Satur­day.

Markel Starks tries to shoot over the Red Storm’s Sir’Do­minic Pointer in the sec­ond half, when Ge­orge­town never trailed en route to its fourth straight win.

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